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Quick Covid tests proposed at Vietnam's northern border amid concerns about subvariants

By Le Nga   January 10, 2023 | 01:12 am PT
Quick Covid tests proposed at Vietnam's northern border amid concerns about subvariants
People leaving Vietnam for China walk towards Lang Son's Huu Nghi border gate, January 8, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
Northern Lang Son Province will take test samples from people crossing the border from China into Vietnam if they have any symptoms such as fever, coughing or difficulty breathing.

Nguyen Luong Tam, deputy head of the General Department of Preventive Medicine, made the request during a Monday meeting with the Lang Son Department of Health and authorities at the Huu Nghi border gate.

"Quick tests on all suspected cases right at the border gate is a necessary task to prevent Covid-19 in the future," Tam said.

He said that officials would take samples on the spot from those with symptoms such as coughing, fever and difficulty breathing for quick Covid-19 tests. If the tests return negative, the samples will be sent to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology for genetic sequencing in order to detect variants.

Vuong Anh Duong, deputy head of the Department of Medical Service Administration, said the Ministry of Health's current stance on Covid-19 prevention is random testing and genetic sequencing, so that appropriate responses can be formulated.

"Additionally, we also need to prepare to respond to cases of severe Covid-19 and respiratory failure," Duong said, "and to transport patients from the border gate to medical facilities."

Dang Viet Truong, director of the Lang Son Center for International Medical Control, said the authorities have prepared medical equipment and personnel to detect infection cases and isolate them.

Right now, Chinese citizens leaving Vietnam to enter China must have RT-PCR Covid-19 test results within the last 48 hours. China has yet to allow Vietnamese citizens and people from a third country to enter China.

Amid the global rise of two Omicron subvariants, XBB and XBB.1.5, which are considered to be more infectious and more elusive to the immune system, Ngu Duy Nghia, head of the infectious disease control department of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said that new cases entering the country is almost unavoidable.

However, the fact that Vietnam has seen its number of cases dropping dramatically shows the effectiveness of vaccine coverage among the population, he added.

"We still need to be ready to respond as variants continue to change," Nghia said, adding that the goal of the government and the health ministry is to manage and detect cases early. The primary purpose of Covid-19 testing now is to track new variants, he explained.

Tam said localities, including Lang Son, need to prevent Covid-19 during the Tet holiday, and must prepare for situations where the number of cases rises to high levels.

"In this new context, Covid-19 prevention measures need to be safe and flexible, and not incurring any extra procedure," Tam added.

China opened its border last Sunday following a long period of restrictions due to Covid-19. Thousands of Chinese people traveled to border gates in Lang Son and Quang Ninh to complete procedures to return to China. Meanwhile, many workers, experts and Vietnamese citizens also want to enter Vietnam as well.

 
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